Isaac Gilliland
Compiled by Stephenie Flora
copyright © 2010

Isaac Gilliland, Adult, KILLED; emigrant of 1847; bachelor, had been driver for Judge Saunders, was a tailor and had been hired to make the doctor a Sunday suit; was killed as he sat sewing in his room.

On the way back he camped with a party of emigrants from Iowa.  He was impressed with the learning of Judge L.W. Saunders of Oskaloosa.  He wanted him for a school teacher and persuaded him to winter at the mission.  Isaac Gilliland, by trade a tailor, was driving one of the Saunders wagons.  He decided to go along as well. [The Great Command by Nard Jones, Boston, 1959, p.309]

The Mansion House was 400' to the east of the Mission House.  It was built in the early 1840s by William Gray for his bride.  Ever since Gray had left the mission in 1842, Whitman had used the neat, adobe building as a store house in summer and to house the emigrants in the winter.  It housed 29 people in November 1847:
 “There were the Saunders and four children; the widow Rebecca Hays and young son; the Peter Halls with four children; and the Nathan Kimballs with five offspring, including an attractive sixteen-year-old girl called Susan.  There was a widower, too.  He was William (sic) Marsh, who ran the gristmill, and in his charge was an eleven-year-old daughter and a two-year-old grandson, Alba Lyman.  Three bachelors completed the ménage: Jacob Hoffman, the tailor Gilliland, and the French-Canadian Joseph Stanfield, who had been employed by Whitman for some time. . [The Great Command by Nard Jones, Boston, 1959, p.311]

Besides Joseph Stanfield,, two other bachelors had stopped that fall, Jacob Hoffman and Isaac Gilliland.  Gilliland, from Long Island, had been a driver for Judge Saunders but another of his skills was tailoring.  Whitman promptly put him to work making the doctor a Sunday suit. [Shallow Grave At Waiilatpu: The Sagers West by Erwin N. Thompson p. 90]

Isaac Gilliland made no noise at his work in the mansion house.  As tailors had since their trade began, he sat cross-legged on a table, plying his needle.  He was working on a suit of clothes for the doctor.” . [The Great Command by Nard Jones, Boston, 1959, p.323]

  Canfield was starting up his forge as Isaac Gilliland worked in the mansion house on a new set of clothes for Dr. Whitman.  Saunders was preparing for the reopening of the school after a week of closure due to the illness at the mission.  At the saw mill in the Blue Mountains two thousand feet of lumber was being turned out each day.  Another load was to be delivered to the mission the next day.  In the mission yard, fifteen year old Francis Sager shot a beef so that it could be butchered to supply the week's meat.  Kimball, Hoffman and Joe Stanfield were preparing to start the process.

 Marsh fell in his tracks as he ran from the mill.  Gilliland was attacked, tumbled to the floor, crawled to his bed and died quickly.  Hoffman, still at the butchering derrick, took up an ax and made a stand.  At the first opportunity he raced for the mission house but was cut down by mounted Cayuse. . [The Great Command by Nard Jones, Boston, 1959, p.332]

In the emigrant house, while women and children cowered behind closed doors, the Indians entered the room in which Gilliland was busily sewing Whitman’s new suit and attacked the tailor.  It was a messy job but before long Gilliland lay dead. [Shallow Grave At Waiilatpu: The Sagers West by Erwin N. Thompson p. 97]

An Indian entered the room of an immigrant tailor, Isaac Gilliland, who was sitting on a table, sewing; twelve house later he died from his wounds. [The Cayuse Indians, Imperial Tribesmen of Old Oregon by Robert H. Ruby and John A. Brown p.110]

“Gillmore (sic-Gilliland) was a tailor.  He was sitting on his table at work (he boarded at Mr. Saunders’), when an Indian came in and shot him.  He dropped his work and leaned against the wall.  Mrs. Saunders ran to the door, and Gillmore jumped down and ran after her.  She, supposing it to be an Indian, held the door against him.  He said, `Let me in, Mrs. Saunders.’  She opened the door and he ran under the bed, but soon came out saying, `It is no use to hid,’ lay down on the bed.  He died about midnight.” [The Whitman Massacre of 1847 by Catherine, Elizabeth and Matilda Sager, Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, WA 1986 p.63 Catherine Sager]

“Mr. Gillam (sic Gilliland), the tailor, had been wounded while sitting on table sewing and had run into his room; he was suffering terribly and begging to be put out of his misery; along towards morning he was given his release from suffering.” [The Whitman Massacre of 1847 by Catherine, Elizabeth and Matilda Sager, Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, WA 1986 p.121 Matilda Sager]

Thirteen of the 72 individuals at the mission were killed that first day. These included: Narcissa Whitman, Andrew Rogers, Jacob Hoffman, the schoolmaster L.W. Sanders, Mr. Marsh, John Sager, Francis Sager, Nathan Kimball, Isaac Gilliland, and Young Jr.  Peter Hall, who had also escaped the original massacre, later disappeared and was never seen again.

A true bill was returned on May 13 and filed on May 21, indicting each of the five for the murder of Dr. Whitman.  A number of separate indictments were issued; all five were indicted for the death of Dr. Whitman, Mrs. Whitman, Sager, Rodgers, Hoffman and Saunders; Klockamas and Isaiachalakis for the death of Gilliland; and Tomahas, for the death of Emmon Stevens (this is probably the murder actually committed at Fort Boise by the Snake Indian who also participated in the massacre) [The Cayuse Indians, Imperial Tribesmen of Old Oregon by Ruby and Brown; p.164]

In 1897 bones were discovered while digging to erect a monument to the massacre.  Matilda Sager helped to identify some of the remains.  “A very thick skull, we felt, resembled Mr. Gillam (sic-Gilliland), the tailor.” [The Whitman Massacre of 1847 by Catherine, Elizabeth and Matilda Sager, Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, WA 1986 p.150 Matilda Sager]


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